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Speech by SMS Chee Hong Tat at the opening of Musim Mas’ Novel IDEAS Center

Speech by SMS Chee Hong Tat at the opening of Musim Mas’ Novel IDEAS Center

Mr ET Lim, Mr EK Lim and Mr Alvin Lim, Directors of Musim Mas Holdings
Mr Sam Appalasami, Head of Functional Products and Novel IDEAS Center, 
Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. It is a pleasure for me to join you this afternoon for the opening of Musim Mas’ Novel IDEAS Center in Singapore. 

a. My warmest congratulations to Musim Mas on this significant milestone, which marks the company’s expansion of its operations into R&D.  

b. Musim Mas is no stranger to Singapore, which has hosted the company’s global headquarters since 2008. Today, Musim Mas has once again chosen to site a key part of its business here. 

2. This is testament to the long-standing relationship that Singapore has with Musim Mas.  Many members of the Lim family have also studied in Singapore, including Mr ET Lim who was my “senior” from The Chinese High School, now known as Hwa Chong Institution.  We both attended the school’s 100th anniversary earlier this year.  

The importance of sustainability in business operations, and enabling the local community 

3. Businesses have long placed great emphasis on economic outcomes. However, in recent years, we have seen companies such as Musim Mas increasingly embracing sustainable practices. 

a. Musim Mas’ own sustainability journey began more than ten years ago. In 2009, Musim Mas was the first company in Indonesia to attain the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification.

b. This leadership role has continued over the years.  More recently, Musim Mas also became the first company in Southeast Asia to produce palm oil according to the standards for responsible palm oil production established by the Palm Oil Innovation Group. 

4. I commend Musim Mas on your efforts and strong commitment towards sustainable production. 

a. This is especially important for the palm oil industry, where we continue to see uneven industry practices.  At one end, we still see poor farming practices leading to forest fires and deforestation through slash-and-burn methods. This has led to the Indonesian Government adopting a tougher stance against some palm oil companies in Sumatra and Kalimantan, pursuing criminal charges and sealing off errant plantations.

b. Separately, the RSPO has announced recently that concrete measures will be taken against companies that do not start buying more sustainable palm oil. The RSPO will also require its members who buy palm oil to increase the proportion of their sustainable purchases by 15% every year. This is intended to drive greater demand for sustainable palm oil and incentivise more producers to produce more sustainably.

c. In assessing the environmental impact of palm oil production, or the production of any crops, we should adopt a scientific evidence-based approach.  It is not right to impose blanket bans that are actually motivated by political correctness or economic protectionism, but dressed up as concerns for the environment.  That is dishonest and hypocritical.  My view is that the key issue is not whether you grow palm oil or corn, but how you grow and harvest the crops. Just as it is possible to have palm oil that is produced sustainably, it is also possible to grow corn with unsustainable methods.  
 
d. With Musim Mas’ involvement throughout the palm oil supply chain, your role in driving sustainable production becomes even more critical and integral, as it impacts the environment and stakeholders you work with. 

5. Beyond sustainable production, I am also pleased to learn about the steps Musim Mas has taken to support the local community.

a. Musim Mas’ joint project with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to provide training and financing to independent smallholders[1] has helped to enhance the productivity and sustainability practices of these local smallholders for more inclusive economic growth.

b. This is a key demonstration of your commitment to the community. It also underscores the role that businesses can play in improving the community, while operating in a long-term and sustainable manner. 

6. I am heartened that companies like Musim Mas have proactively taken the lead to help set higher standards and level up the practices across the industry. I hope that this will inspire other players to do the same. The Government also stands ready to work together with the industry and NGOs to encourage the adoption of sustainable practices across various industry players. 

Innovating to meet increased consumer demand for greater variety of healthier food products

7. Coming back to this new R&D facility, I understand that Musim Mas hopes to innovate a variety of confectionery and food products. 

8. For such new products, meeting the needs of the end consumer is a key success factor. Product innovation must thus remain relevant in the face of ever-evolving needs and preferences of consumers. 

a. By 2030, Asia will be home to more than half of the world’s middle-class population. 

b. Coupled with increasing life expectancy and a growing awareness of health and wellness, the demand for a greater variety of healthier food products is expected to grow significantly. Companies in the food manufacturing sector must be mindful of these trends and considerations in the next phase of growth. 

9. By siting its R&D facility in Singapore, Musim Mas will be well-placed to innovate and develop products to meet the evolving needs and preferences of Asian consumers. 

a. Musim Mas will have the opportunity to co-innovate with global and local confectionery companies based in Singapore to develop exciting new products ranging from chocolates to bakery and dairy products. 

b. The new facility will also provide Musim Mas with the capability to catalyse new partnerships with local research institutes and institutes of higher learning, such as the Singapore Food Innovation & Resource Centre at Singapore Polytechnic, to conduct joint research on nutrition and consumer preferences, and develop new and healthier food products. 

10. All this will not only enhance the robustness of our innovation ecosystem, but also put Musim Mas in a good position to improve the lives of consumers. 

Creating value for Singapore and Singaporeans 

11. Beyond meeting the needs of consumers, the expansion plans of companies such as Musim Mas in Singapore also provide opportunities for Singaporeans to further their career aspirations.  This is complementary to the Government’s efforts in building a strong pipeline of talent through our educational institutes.

a. The opening of Musim Mas’ new R&D facility will bring about a variety of exciting new jobs such as food technologists, specialists and scientists. In this regard, Musim Mas is expected to hire more than 20 technical professionals by the fifth year of its operations. 

b. These jobs center on driving innovation to create new products, which will be increasingly valuable to strengthen the competitiveness and growth of companies in today’s innovation-led economy. 

c. Meanwhile, I am glad that Musim Mas has also provided the opportunity to your employees to broaden their skillsets. One good example is Ee Hai En, who joined Musim Mas this year with some prior experience in the dairy sector. As a food technologist at the Novel IDEAS Center, she will now have the opportunity to work with the various bakery, confectionery and analytical labs across a wide range of products. I look forward to trying some of these products.

Conclusion

12. In conclusion, let me once again congratulate Musim Mas on the opening of your new Novel IDEAS Center. 

a. Your investment in Singapore will put you in good stead to capture further growth opportunities in the region and create more good jobs for our people. 

13. Thank you for your strong commitment to the environment and your vote of confidence in Singapore. I wish you every success in the future.   


 

[1] Smallholders refer to farmers owning small plots of land, on which they grow a mixture of subsistence and cash crops, often to support a single family.

 

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